When the Judge got a Facebook message from a friend the Judge did not read the message and posted a copy in the Court files and told authorities to avoid any bias. The Facebook friend was the father of a woman who asked that the defendant get the maximum penalty for abusing his daughter. But once the Judge realized the inappropriate use of Facebook the Judge did not read the message. The defendant appealed the lengthy jail sentence claiming that the Facebook friendship biased the Judge.
In a case of first impression Justice Mary Murphy of the Texas 5th Court of Appeals wrote in the case of in William Scott Youkers v. State of Texas:
A reasonable person in possession of all of the facts in this case likely would conclude the contact between the judge and the father did not cause the judge to abandon his judicial role of impartiality; besides the evidence that the judge and the father’s acquaintance was limited, any appearance of bias created by the Facebook communications was dismissed quickly by the judge’s handling of the situation.
Since 2009 the Florida Supreme Court has precluded lawyers from being Facebook friends with Judges if they have cases before them, but in Texas (and many other states) lawyers contribute monies to support election of Judges so being Facebook friends probably means less.
Without question Social Media connections between Judges and lawyers will continue to be an important issue and no doubt we will see many more court opinions on this subject.